You may worry that your spouse will fight you if you ask for alimony, which Minnesota statutes refer to as spousal maintenance. But, you know that after the divorce, it will take you some time to get back on your feet and become financially stable. Going to court over the matter will drag out your divorce even longer, though, and that may complicate your financial situation further.

Often, couples can work out matters such as spousal maintenance through mediation.

What is mediation?

Rather than an argument with your spouse, you want a discussion. Like many divorcing couples, your relationship may have devolved to the point that a calm, rational discussion is impossible. Instead of going to negotiations and hoping for a favorable outcome, you may want to include a mediator: a neutral third party with training in conflict resolution.

The mediator listens to both sides of the situation. Then, this professional helps the two of you come to an agreement based on realistic and fair expectations. This agreement is not a court order and has no legal weight. You will present the agreement to the judge, and if it is reasonable and fair, the judge will sign it.

What does the law say about spousal maintenance?

Minnesota statute 518.552 explains how the judge determines whether spousal maintenance is reasonable and fair. You may have grounds to expect maintenance if you do not have the means to support yourself. Or, even if you can support yourself, if your new standard of living would be far below what you enjoyed during the marriage, a judge may award maintenance.

Typically, spousal maintenance is temporary. The goal is to give you the time and financial support you need to become self-supporting, which may include going back to college or taking job training classes. If you have been out of the workforce for a long time and have lost the opportunity to re-establish yourself in a viable career, the judge may consider permanent maintenance. A judge may also decide to make the order for permanent support but include a caveat that modification is possible in the future.

Because the mediator understands the laws as well as conflict resolution methods, he or she is likely to be able to help you and your spouse come to a judge-approved agreement.